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The Many Gifts of Malia--Part 32: "The Awakening"

by dragonfphoenix


Warning: This work has been rated 16+ for language.

We spent the better part of the night and most of the morning magically healing the girl. And by “we,” I mean Malia, with Seppo and I checking in on them periodically to make sure everything was okay. Though Thane’s absence would have been reassuring, normally, the fact that neither he nor Azoria had revealed themselves was more than disconcerting. At the very least we should have been shooing him off the girl while we tried to save her, to say nothing of the failure of propriety that was his not greeting the head of his pantheon.

And Azoria would’ve never fumbled such a responsibility. With the absence of our gods, the gloom suffocating the city, and the attack on an Oracle-less temple, I had a choir’s worth of alarm bells going off in my head. The whole thing reeked of conspiracy. With the Paedens making moves, first in the north, and now here, I’d have laid celestial steel on this being their fault. But until we had the servant girl stabilized and gathered more information, we had nothing to go on.

So Seppo and I spent the hours passing each other in the halls beneath the temple, like cordless pendulums as we swung back and forth, in and out of the bedchambers where Malia toiled. And it was a struggle for her. None of us specialized in healing, but with her shifting towards the more delicate side of war, field dressing gave her the closest approximation to proper medicine out of our trio. Seppo had devised no mending machines, and I...well, I was really good at crushing things. The servant girl needed a much lighter hand than mine.

We knew the healing had finished when the girl’s screams pierced the cool morning air. I beat Seppo to the door and burst into the room, Seppo hissing and puffing behind me.

Wings flared, Malia was doing her best to wrangle the deathly-pale girl back onto the bed. Eyes popping with panic, the servant girl thrashed in Malia’s arms, kicking the blanket into a tangled mess and nearly pitching onto the floor after it. Malia hissed in frustration and pinned the girl to the cot. The girl’s shrieks subsided as she burned through her breaths, ratcheting closer to hyperventilation and unconsciousness.

“Give me a hand?” Malia hissed through clenched teeth.

The girl kicked and twisted some more as Seppo and I held her down. Her bug-eyes were fixed on Malia, her pupils dilating until her eyes were nearly black. The rank odor of dark magic filled the room, making my nose itch and the back of my throat inflate. She gave one more hitched breath, coughed, and collapsed. Fingers twitching, she finally settled, though the panic attack left her looking even weaker.

Malia scowled as she stood up. “The stupid wretch started screaming as soon as she woke up. She's lost so much blood, it's a wonder she could even fight like she did.”

I sighed as I straightened. “Have you figured out what’s wrong with her?”

“No.” Malia bared her fangs as she backed away from the unconscious girl. “I haven’t made any headway on those bite marks beyond discovering they reek of rotten fish.”

Seppo echoed the statement as he leaned over to smell the girl’s neck. He’d barely taken a whiff when he jerked back, piston steam barely masking his gagging. Eyebrows lifted nearly off his face, he shook his head in disbelief. “That is rank.”

“Indeed.” Malia pursed her lips. “I can’t find any trace of sorcery, so I’d wager whatever was in the bite was purely natural. Most likely some kind of toxin to knock the prey unconscious for easier transportation.”

“Hence why we found her lying on the floor, sopping wet,” I said. “Well, half dead isn’t much of an improvement, but it’s something.”

Malia shot me a glare. “You watch your tongue, you old bag.”

I arched a brow. “Bad mood?”

“What do you think?” she snapped. “I’ve just spent hours trying to stabilize this idiot mortal, only to have her shit herself the moment she comes anywhere near awake and undo who knows how much progress I managed to cobble together. I’m not a healer, and I still don’t know who did this or why. Not to mention—”

“We get it,” I said, holding up a hand to forestall further ranting. “None of us like going in blind. And you can’t spin your webs when you’ve nothing to anchor them on.”

She huffed and folded her arms as she leaned against the wall. “Stupid, ungrateful girl. You’d think, from the way she acted, that she was afraid of me.”

“Why would she fear you?” Seppo asked. He leaned over the girl again and prodded around the bites on her neck and under the curve of her jaw.

“How should I know?” Malia was doing little to keep the exasperation from her voice. From all the effort she’d been putting into the girl’s healing, only to have it undone so quickly, must have been testing the limits of her patience. Eyes flashing, she shot me a look. “And don’t you dare insinuate anything unpleasant regarding my appearance. I hear one untoward word out of your mouth and I’m going to use what’s left of your hide for my next scroll.”

“That would make for a short diary, my dear.”

She rolled her eyes.

Seppo grunted and righted himself, his exoskeleton misting the girl’s arms and face as it vented steam. “Remarkable. For fang bites, those punctures are surprisingly ragged.”

My eyebrows scrunched as I frowned. “What do you mean?”

“Well, see here.” Seppo shifted the girl’s head to expose her neck. The two punctures were inflamed, the edges of the wounds inflated and uneven, like volcano craters. Dried blood crusted the puffy skin, but the bites themselves—thumb-sized holes—had yet to scab over. Seppo’s eyes glinted with scientific fascination as he examined the wounds. “The skin surrounding both perforations is uneven, as if the fangs were serrated. If the teeth were intended to just inject venom, it makes no sense for them to have any irregularities on the surface. But these wounds are jagged, almost as if the fangs were barbed…”

“That rules out anything viperine, then,” Malia said. Her snakes rattled as she shook her head. “Vampiric, too. You’d want to release your prey after subduing it, and if your fangs are how you feed, the last thing you want is your prey fighting back and you losing your ability to catch and eat food.”

“Unless you needed to pierce thick skin,” I said. Disparate threads were slowly tying themselves together in the back of my mind, but they hadn’t quite connected yet.

Malia quirked a brow. “You think whatever this was needs to latch on to its victims?”

I nodded. “I can’t shake the feeling that, whatever our predator is, it’s well outside its normal environment. And not just with its prey.” I gestured towards the sleeping girl. “Obviously her skin isn’t thick enough to justify saw teeth. But where would?”

Seppo squatted on the bed next to the girl and drummed his fingers on his leg pistons. “Armored prey, like the tortoise-toads of the distant east.”

“Or scaled, like the dragons, or hydras, or...fish.” Malia’s eyes met mine. “So we’re dealing with something from the depths.”

“It would explain why they attacked our ocean god.” I shrugged. “And why they’d need to latch onto prey to feed.”

Malia’s face pinched in a frown. “But it’d need to be amphibious, unless the water in the temple was evidence of its magic, and not Resef’s wards. What do you think?”

I shook my head. “It’s been too long since I was last in one of his temples, and the magical manipulation was too old for me to pick up any scents.”

“It was Resef’s, all right,” Seppo said, nodding. “But I can’t guarantee there weren’t any alien augments to it. If our ambusher was aquatic, it could have hijacked his wards to support its attack.” His fingers plied the air as he began drawing on his own magic. Thin, silver tubes stretched between his fingertips, twisting together as he bent his hands. When he had a fist-sized spool of the strands, he stood up and bent over the girl. “I’ve been thinking on her injuries, and I might be able to devise something to suture these wounds. There are psychotropic crystals as well. Perhaps one of those could aid her.”

“You’d know more about that than we would,” Malia said.

“Jade might, too.” I ignored Malia’s pointed glare. “We’ll fetch her from Nebesa, see if she knows any—”

The earth shook as waterfalls thundered in the temple above us. Fierce, angry shrieks clashed with the drumming of the waterfalls, cries that warbled as the water fought to wash their source away. Malia and I were out the door and up the stairs in a heartbeat.

We stumbled and coughed as we reached the inner temple court. The scent of salt sat thick upon the air, choking in its intensity. Water so salinated it crackled surged across the floor, battering a lump of juniper green tentacles against the altar. The unearthly cries came from the waterlogged creature, which squawked every time it collided with the unforgiving stones. The air tingled with Resef’s magic as columns of water crashed from the ceiling as the wards sought to crush the intruder.

All we could do was watch as the temple safeguards beat against the creature. The magic kept the dense saltwater contained in the chamber, which rose against invisible barriers to obstruct every doorway. It seemed our ambusher had saved us the trouble of hunting him down, but we needed Resef’s wards to calm down before we could get a better look at it.


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Thu Jun 24, 2021 11:12 am
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HarryHardy wrote a review...



Good Morning/Afternoon/Evening/Night(whichever one it is in your part of the world),

Hi! I'm baaackk...and whoa this is starting to be a massive story now...:D

First Impression: Well, this had a pretty decent amount of information there...looks like at least in the next chapter we might find out more about the girl and whatever that creature is, we certainly learnt a lot of details about the monster at least in this one.

Anyway let's get right to it,

We spent the better part of the night and most of the morning magically healing the girl. And by “we,” I mean Malia, with Seppo and I checking in on them periodically to make sure everything was okay. Though Thane’s absence would have been reassuring, normally, the fact that neither he nor Azoria had revealed themselves was more than disconcerting. At the very least we should have been shooing him off the girl while we tried to save her, to say nothing of the failure of propriety that was his not greeting the head of his pantheon.


Okayy....soo..let's of things going weird as usual I see. Well, certainly a pretty decent summary here of the situation so far, everything at a tiny bit of a standstill for the moment I suppose as they're waiting for the girl to recover here.

And Azoria would’ve never fumbled such a responsibility. With the absence of our gods, the gloom suffocating the city, and the attack on an Oracle-less temple, I had a choir’s worth of alarm bells going off in my head. The whole thing reeked of conspiracy. With the Paedens making moves, first in the north, and now here, I’d have laid celestial steel on this being their fault. But until we had the servant girl stabilized and gathered more information, we had nothing to go on.


Hmm, well, that's probably the best, its not like they have too many other potential sources of information to try and decipher what's going on there, especially considering there looks to be so many problems its almost hard to try and keep track of all of them at once.

So Seppo and I spent the hours passing each other in the halls beneath the temple, like cordless pendulums as we swung back and forth, in and out of the bedchambers where Malia toiled. And it was a struggle for her. None of us specialized in healing, but with her shifting towards the more delicate side of war, field dressing gave her the closest approximation to proper medicine out of our trio. Seppo had devised no mending machines, and I...well, I was really good at crushing things. The servant girl needed a much lighter hand than mine.


Well, I love the little bit of attention that we get towards their powers there, not to mention Charax admitting the fact that he's no good at anything healing related is properly hilarious there.

We knew the healing had finished when the girl’s screams pierced the cool morning air. I beat Seppo to the door and burst into the room, Seppo hissing and puffing behind me.

Wings flared, Malia was doing her best to wrangle the deathly-pale girl back onto the bed. Eyes popping with panic, the servant girl thrashed in Malia’s arms, kicking the blanket into a tangled mess and nearly pitching onto the floor after it. Malia hissed in frustration and pinned the girl to the cot. The girl’s shrieks subsided as she burned through her breaths, ratcheting closer to hyperventilation and unconsciousness.


Well, that was a quick shock there, screams jut coming right out of nowhere when things appeared to be settled down, at any rate it looks like the girl there is actively fighting something...well, this should be an interesting conversation coming up I suppose.

“Give me a hand?” Malia hissed through clenched teeth.

The girl kicked and twisted some more as Seppo and I held her down. Her bug-eyes were fixed on Malia, her pupils dilating until her eyes were nearly black. The rank odor of dark magic filled the room, making my nose itch and the back of my throat inflate. She gave one more hitched breath, coughed, and collapsed. Fingers twitching, she finally settled, though the panic attack left her looking even weaker.


Well, there's definitely something horrible going on there, looks like she's somehow being possessed or something by something that doesn't like anyone in the room very much at all, and the girl doesn't seem to really have any measure of control over whatever is going on there.

Malia scowled as she stood up. “The stupid wretch started screaming as soon as she woke up. She's lost so much blood, it's a wonder she could even fight like she did.”

I sighed as I straightened. “Have you figured out what’s wrong with her?”


Hmm, Malia as a healer doesn't seem to particularly fond of the patient there...probably not the best option if you really want to heal the poor thing...

“No.” Malia bared her fangs as she backed away from the unconscious girl. “I haven’t made any headway on those bite marks beyond discovering they reek of rotten fish.”

Seppo echoed the statement as he leaned over to smell the girl’s neck. He’d barely taken a whiff when he jerked back, piston steam barely masking his gagging. Eyebrows lifted nearly off his face, he shook his head in disbelief. “That is rank.”


Well I suppose you can't say that she found nothing, that is still going to count as something there....

“Indeed.” Malia pursed her lips. “I can’t find any trace of sorcery, so I’d wager whatever was in the bite was purely natural. Most likely some kind of toxin to knock the prey unconscious for easier transportation.”

“Hence why we found her lying on the floor, sopping wet,” I said. “Well, half dead isn’t much of an improvement, but it’s something.”


Well, you can also look at it as half alive....full dead is really the bad option here, any other state of dead and there's always a chance that you can recover somehow...perhaps they could call the god of healing....there's gotta be one of those too I hope...although they probably can't actually make it to this spot.

Malia shot me a glare. “You watch your tongue, you old bag.”

I arched a brow. “Bad mood?”

“What do you think?” she snapped. “I’ve just spent hours trying to stabilize this idiot mortal, only to have her shit herself the moment she comes anywhere near awake and undo who knows how much progress I managed to cobble together. I’m not a healer, and I still don’t know who did this or why. Not to mention—”


Well, that would certainly explain the bad mood at any rate...although you probably want to take the frustration out on some inanimate object rather that the ones there to help you or the one you're trying to heal there Malia.

“We get it,” I said, holding up a hand to forestall further ranting. “None of us like going in blind. And you can’t spin your webs when you’ve nothing to anchor them on.”

She huffed and folded her arms as she leaned against the wall. “Stupid, ungrateful girl. You’d think, from the way she acted, that she was afraid of me.”


Okayy...not sure why this line cracked me up but it did.

“Why would she fear you?” Seppo asked. He leaned over the girl again and prodded around the bites on her neck and under the curve of her jaw.

“How should I know?” Malia was doing little to keep the exasperation from her voice. From all the effort she’d been putting into the girl’s healing, only to have it undone so quickly, must have been testing the limits of her patience. Eyes flashing, she shot me a look. “And don’t you dare insinuate anything unpleasant regarding my appearance. I hear one untoward word out of your mouth and I’m going to use what’s left of your hide for my next scroll.”


Ahh...this part though...is pure gold there...and I'm just imagining Seppo doing his absolute best to ignore the two of them being the two of them and just attempting to try and figure out something about the girl there.

Seppo grunted and righted himself, his exoskeleton misting the girl’s arms and face as it vented steam. “Remarkable. For fang bites, those punctures are surprisingly ragged.”

My eyebrows scrunched as I frowned. “What do you mean?”


Oooh, finally we have something....I see...

“Well, see here.” Seppo shifted the girl’s head to expose her neck. The two punctures were inflamed, the edges of the wounds inflated and uneven, like volcano craters. Dried blood crusted the puffy skin, but the bites themselves—thumb-sized holes—had yet to scab over. Seppo’s eyes glinted with scientific fascination as he examined the wounds. “The skin surrounding both perforations is uneven, as if the fangs were serrated. If the teeth were intended to just inject venom, it makes no sense for them to have any irregularities on the surface. But these wounds are jagged, almost as if the fangs were barbed…”


Okay....looks like after all that time letting Malia take the lead and try to heal them, Seppo has finally resorting to turning into complete forensic investigator mode, well, better late than never I suppose when it comes to things like that.

“That rules out anything viperine, then,” Malia said. Her snakes rattled as she shook her head. “Vampiric, too. You’d want to release your prey after subduing it, and if your fangs are how you feed, the last thing you want is your prey fighting back and you losing your ability to catch and eat food.”

“Unless you needed to pierce thick skin,” I said. Disparate threads were slowly tying themselves together in the back of my mind, but they hadn’t quite connected yet.


Well, I'm loving the turn this conversation took, lots of serious logic and facts being tossed out left and right and the fact that this is subtly helping with fleshing out the creatures in the world is the icing on the cake and I am loving it so far.

Malia quirked a brow. “You think whatever this was needs to latch on to its victims?”

I nodded. “I can’t shake the feeling that, whatever our predator is, it’s well outside its normal environment. And not just with its prey.” I gestured towards the sleeping girl. “Obviously her skin isn’t thick enough to justify saw teeth. But where would?”


Well, things are being narrowed down at any rate, that's a good sign so far at least. It looks like this set of questions might end up leading them towards a better clue at any rate.

Seppo squatted on the bed next to the girl and drummed his fingers on his leg pistons. “Armored prey, like the tortoise-toads of the distant east.”

“Or scaled, like the dragons, or hydras, or...fish.” Malia’s eyes met mine. “So we’re dealing with something from the depths.”


The fish would explain latching, but the scales of fish aren't exactly saw worthy though...although I suppose there could be some sort of stronger fish than usual at least. And I just love how casually dragons and hydras are mentioned in the same vein as fish...that just really puts in perspective how this world works.

“It would explain why they attacked our ocean god.” I shrugged. “And why they’d need to latch onto prey to feed.”

Malia’s face pinched in a frown. “But it’d need to be amphibious, unless the water in the temple was evidence of its magic, and not Resef’s wards. What do you think?”


Hmm, I would still imagine amphibious cause its probably not very practical for a creature that's purely ocean dwelling to constantly use water magic around it to stay alive.

I shook my head. “It’s been too long since I was last in one of his temples, and the magical manipulation was too old for me to pick up any scents.”

“It was Resef’s, all right,” Seppo said, nodding. “But I can’t guarantee there weren’t any alien augments to it. If our ambusher was aquatic, it could have hijacked his wards to support its attack.” His fingers plied the air as he began drawing on his own magic. Thin, silver tubes stretched between his fingertips, twisting together as he bent his hands. When he had a fist-sized spool of the strands, he stood up and bent over the girl. “I’ve been thinking on her injuries, and I might be able to devise something to suture these wounds. There are psychotropic crystals as well. Perhaps one of those could aid her.”


Okay...so now he's really starting to help out here, its a little strange that all these ideas weren't coming at the beginning but I suppose its fair enough to think that they didn't manage to get around to think of all the potential solutions at the very beginning.

“You’d know more about that than we would,” Malia said.

“Jade might, too.” I ignored Malia’s pointed glare. “We’ll fetch her from Nebesa, see if she knows any—”


Well, that's certainly a possibility.

The earth shook as waterfalls thundered in the temple above us. Fierce, angry shrieks clashed with the drumming of the waterfalls, cries that warbled as the water fought to wash their source away. Malia and I were out the door and up the stairs in a heartbeat.

We stumbled and coughed as we reached the inner temple court. The scent of salt sat thick upon the air, choking in its intensity. Water so salinated it crackled surged across the floor, battering a lump of juniper green tentacles against the altar. The unearthly cries came from the waterlogged creature, which squawked every time it collided with the unforgiving stones. The air tingled with Resef’s magic as columns of water crashed from the ceiling as the wards sought to crush the intruder.


Okay....well that's a lovely creature...definitely a fun little surprise attack here at any rate. Certainly was a pretty decent opening attack by whatever this thing is and I suppose the wards of the temple are also quite a bit to the chaos of what's happening here.

All we could do was watch as the temple safeguards beat against the creature. The magic kept the dense saltwater contained in the chamber, which rose against invisible barriers to obstruct every doorway. It seemed our ambusher had saved us the trouble of hunting him down, but we needed Resef’s wards to calm down before we could get a better look at it.


Well, that's a pretty decent little cliffhanger to end on there....can't wait to see what happens next.

Aaaaand that's it for this one.

Overall: Overall, well, another chapter where the problems continue add up although now there's at least a few signs we can soon get our hands on a few answers in the next chapter. Well...gonna go back to waiting patiently for more things to happen. :D

As always remember to take what you think was helpful and forget the rest.

Stay Safe
Harry




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Wed Jun 23, 2021 1:29 pm
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Plume wrote a review...



Hey there! Plume here, with a review!

Ooh. It seems we're getting close to finding out some clarity on this whole situation!! The ending especially is leaving me wanting more. It's hard to predict what's going to happen/what the creature is when I'm not as familiar with the world it's in, which makes it even more anticipatory.

One thing I really enjoyed about this chapter were the exchanges between the characters. I think that your dialogue is always so naturalistic, but it was really made exemplary because of the exchanges in this chapter. I think the flow of the whole discussion about them trying to determine what exactly got to the servant girl was really well done. It was super easy to follow while not seeming like an infodump, and it also let the reader come to the conclusions that Charax, Malia, and Seppo were making along with them. And you did all of that while still making it feel really natural and like stuff the characters would say, so nice work!!

I'm also very intrigued by all the plot stuff happening. It seems we might be on the cusp of a battle or an interrogation due to the creature trapped in the temple. I was expecting a little more information from the servant girl in this, but I think the conclusions that they came to and the observations they made about the serrated teeth made up for any information they could get from the servant girl. It's also quite suspicious how Thane and Azoria are MIA. I'm very curious to see what's up with them. Could it have something to do with the Paedens?? There's a lot of things that need to be addressed and I'm sooo looking forward to seeing them answered later on.

Overall: great chapter!! I think you got a lot done in it, and I'm curious to see how the beginnings of events happening here could lead to greater plot consequences later on. Until next time!!





"There is nothing to fear from someone who shouts."
— Chinua Achebe, Things Fall Apart